The Mar Vista Restaurant

The Mar Vista is a casual restaurant on Venice Boulevard, serving creative dishes in a relaxed, neighborhood setting.

The Mar Vista Restaurant |

The Mar Vista is a new restaurant that's full of surprises. I pulled up to it on Venice Boulevard, between the bowling alley and the Mitsuwa Japanese grocery store, and wasn't expecting much. Walking in, the large, open, warm room immediately put a smile on my face. There's a nice bar just off the front entrance. Then there's a large dining room with exposed wood beams, hanging plants (a la Rose Cafe) and a raw bar tucked in the back. There were families next to couples, next to single friends catching up. I liked the vibe of The Mar Vista right off the bat.

It's only been open a few weeks since The Mar Vista opened so the service was a little slow. Luckily our server was the nicest person on the planet with a permagrin and steady stream of optimism. It was hard to be annoyed with wait times when she was so darn happy. Once, we got our drinks, we were happy too. There's just beer and wine right now, but a nice list of selections by the glass and bottle.

The menu is broken up in sections like "All Play" with fun starters like turkish turkey pops and salt roasted ta-tas. Then there's "Del Mar" with seafood selections such as oysters, glazed shrimp and a wonderful coconut milk rock cod ceviche, served with crisply plantain chips for scooping.

The "lemonaise" was a colorful salad of fennel, carrot, radish and orange with a swirl of citrus-infused aioli. The dressing was nicely balanced and it was topped with not nearly enough delicious sunchoke chips.

There's a vegan black barley hot pot and an omnivorous one with pork belly and squash. Under the "Turned" section of the menu, you can get items made on the rotisserie grill. The meatless broccoli cauliflower had all the smoky, charred notes you'd want from an all veg dish, and the sweet chili pear puree brought in the right level of sweetness to lighten everything up.

Larger plates include cod and fried oysters and a lovely grilled lamb with couscous, kale and a pomegranate chimichurri. A really nice dish with a lot of complementary flavors.

I'm not usually a dessert getter, but once I discovered who the guy was in the corner, manning a small station, I had to jump in. So on a small butcher's block near the raw bar, is a guy, complete with paper top hat, working the "Cranked" station. You can go over to him and customize your dessert. He starts by pushing a variety of frozen berries like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries through a crank until it comes out like a granita on the other end. Then you can add your toppings like mint, basil, nuts, meringue, pomegranate molasses and nutella. It's a fun and refreshing way to end the meal.

The Mar Vista is now offering live music on weekends, so it continues to surprise and delight. It's great for a nice, neighborhood meal, but also has a much more interesting menu than most local spots, which I'm sure will help keep a steady clientele. Here's hoping!

The Mar Vista
12249 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles